Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday urged Britain to send warplanes to ensure a victory over Russia that would “change the world,” The Washington Post reports.
In his special address to both houses of Parliament, Zelensky noted that when he visited the United Kingdom two years go, he thanked officials for the “delicious English tea … and I will be leaving Parliament today thanking all of you in advance for powerful English planes,” he said.
Zelensky was in the U.K. for a rare visit outside Ukraine — it’s only his second known trip abroad since the start of the Russian military operation in his country almost a year ago. He addressed Parliament and will also meet with King Charles III at Buckingham Palace later in the afternoon.
During his speech, he thanked Britain for its support and predicted victory over Russia with its help.
“We know freedom will win; we know Russia will lose,” he said. “We know the victory will change the world, and this will be the change that the world has long needed,” he said. “The United Kingdom is marching with us towards the most important victory of our lifetime.”
He put pressure on the West to supply Ukraine with fighter jets — something it has been reluctant to do.
“In Britain, the king is an air force pilot, and in Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king,” Zelensky said. Charles trained as a jet pilot with the Royal Air Force in the 1970s.
“Because they are so few, they are so precious that we, the servants of our kings, do everything possible and impossible to make the world provide us with modern planes to empower and protect pilots who will be protecting us.” He then presented the helmet of a Ukrainian pilot to the speaker of the House of Commons, inscribed with the phrase: “We have freedom, give us wings to protect it.”
Such is the security operation around these trips that Downing Street announced his visit only a few hours before the aircraft carrying Zelensky arrived at London’s Stansted Airport — a moment broadcast live on the BBC.
Zelensky may also visit Brussels on Thursday, according to various media outlets. His first international trip was in December, when he traveled to Washington to address a joint meeting of Congress and rally for continued American support. He stopped in Poland on his return home to Ukraine.
Britain sees itself as playing a leading role on Ukraine, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, like his predecessors, is an outspoken supporter. On Wednesday, Sunak pledged further military support, including the training of Ukrainian fighter pilots. That is still short of the requests from Zelensky for actual fighter jets.